Filmmaking is the kind of art that requires a specific vision, attention to detail, innate talent, and the desire to express oneself and the stories you want to share. New Jersey native Thomas Severini and Poland-born Gabriel Bienczycki understand the artistry of creating, directing, and producing films and videos. Veteran filmmakers at the top of their form, they pay homage to the ancient practice of yoga in their newest project.
Filmmakers to know
Bienczycki has always been interested in music, fine arts, and modern dance. He spent a large part of his life working for leading companies in Europe, Canada, and the United States as a dancer and choreographer. However, movement was not his only passion. He went on to become a cinematographer, director, and photographer.
His artistic eye led him to become Artistic Director for the 7 Dance Company in Philadelphia, where he translated movement into film and still photography. Currently, he makes a wide variety of work, including feature narrative and documentary films, commercial campaigns, music videos, and humanitarian assignments.
He was Director of Photography for Emmy-winning feature Out of Iraq, feature-length gangster comedy Mayday, and Tribeca and Berlinale official selection All On a Mardi Gras Day. His commitment to organic movement, precise stage blocking, and understanding the human form have put him at the center of filmmaking history and successfully guided his newest project with Severini.
Severini also grew up in an artistic household, spending hours as a kid in the photography studio owned by his father. Surrounding himself with this kind of creativity and talent pushed him to pursue his BFA in Communications from Parsons School of Design. His training, knowledge, and passion led him to become Creative Director at a major advertising agency in New York City. Hisclients included Sony, Mark Ecko, HSN, and Lipton.
Years later, his entrepreneurial passion took over, and he founded a video production agency. Called Slate, the company produces high-end corporate videos for companies like Dell, Microsoft, SunPower, and Airbnb. The work he has done throughout his career has been rewarded with several honors, including two Webbys.
But that was not the end of his entrepreneurial energy. Due to his interest in high-end fashion and creative design, he also co-founded two companies, Batch and KARV.
Severini and Bienczycki’s paths crossed 15 years ago through a mutual friend in the dance world. Severini and his wife were looking for a photographer for their wedding. They wanted someone who shot digitally with a fresh and new feeling to capture this important day.
“Our mutual friend mentioned Gabe, who specialized in dance photography and capturing movement,” says Severini. “My wife and I both fell in love with his work and knew he was who we wanted to hire.”
The results were terrific, so Severini hired Bienczycki to shoot a campaign for the advertising agency he was working at. “I hired Gabe on set, and not only did we get along well together, but he killed it. This was not only the start of our working relationship, but also a lifelong friendship.”
They began working together routinely on commercials and web videos. As time went by, the two joined forces, traveling around the US and then the whole world. Bienczycki and Severini each brought something unique to their duo, making a professional team that worked perfectly in sync. Companies began hiring them in tandem.
But years of hard work and long hours on the road started to take a toll. Wanting to find a way to spend more time at home with their families, they decided to leverage their years of experience, expert collaboration, and entrepreneurial spirit into founding a new company: True Naked Yoga.
A new project
People have been practicing yoga for over 5,000 years. The tradition originally started in India, first mentioned in ancient sacred texts called the Rig Veda. To this day, individuals all over the world continue to value these stretches and postures. Of the many different forms of yoga you can partake in, perhaps the most intriguing but least understood is naked yoga.
Naked yoga is also known as Nagna yoga and “can be traced back to the Naga Babas, or Naga Sadhus, an ancient Indian sect that practice[s] yoga (understood in its broader historical context as a group of physical and mental practices) as a form of Bhakti, a Hindu monastic tradition.” Contrary to popular belief, it is not a vulgar practice. Rather, it provides a way to connect with your body and find a healthy balance.
Both Severini and Bienczycki have practiced yoga for many years. “I found it to be a fantastic marriage of mental hygiene and fitness body conditioning,” says Bienczycki.
They also noticed a lack of artistry and quality in the existing videos for the naked yoga community. They saw a need for a series of videos that would honor the ideology and way of life that comes from practicing this kind of yoga.
“We felt obligated to step in and employ our specific set of skills to bring that to life,” Severini explains. “The idea was to combine our love of yoga, the human form, traveling, and our passion for creating videos, all while allowing us to make our own schedule and having final creative say.”
Toward that end, True Naked Yoga provides artful and meticulous instructional videos at different levels of difficulty, emphasizing beauty and respect for the practice. Each prerecorded class is not only led by a professional instructor in a beautiful aspirational location, but also constitutes a work of art.
Throughout the years, the meaning of art has changed, expanded, evolved, and grown. At its core, art combines the artist’s vision, craft, talent, and self-expression. Severini and Bienczycki combined their experience, knowledge, desire, and goals to create a ground-breaking film project that allows art to shine through while sharing a way of living that encourages individuals to connect with their bodies and live a healthier life.